Report on World Wide Smiles Tour to Sri Lanka, 16-28 October 2005
after the aftermath of the Tsunami tragedy on 26 December 2004
Tsunami and It’s Aftermath: Sri Lanka A World Wide Smile Tour 2005
Report by Clown Bluey
Sunday, 16th October 2005
The World Wide Smiles Team are waiting for me at London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4 when I arrive. Masjolie & Ben have flown in direct from Holland to Terminal 4 which is handy, whilst Conk has been given a lift from Birmingham by his son. We all have “overweight” baggage but after explaining our “mission” to the Check-in, our luggage is waived through without excess luggage charge, much to our delight and relief! We leave at 10.45pm, an hour late, for the eleven hour flight to Colombo in Sri Lanka. The plane is full and we feel like the proverbial sardines! Service is excellent on the Sri Lanka Airlines and the food of good quality, although being served Dinner at 00.30 a.m. in the morning weighs heavily on my stomach (or maybe it was just the very hot and spicy fish curry I chose!). Whatever, most of us did not get any sleep, so we arrive a little bleary-eyed at 1.45p.m. in the afternoon of 17th October (Sri Lanka is 5 hours ahead of the U.K.).
Monday, 17th October 2005
After getting through immigration and Customs with no problems, it takes us a little while in all the confusion, noise and heat at the Arrivals Gate to finally meet with our contact, Guide and Translator for the trip, Ajith Abeyatunga and his charming wife Husha who will also be touring with us. Ajith is employed by Ton Willemsen, a Dutchman who runs an insulation company in Sri Lanka called Tonzon, but who is also the founder of Kids4Kids, the Charity who arranged the itinerary for us in Sri Lanka and who arranged the invitation from the Sri Lanka Director of Education to tour the schools in the Tsunami-hit areas.
We pay for a mini bus to transport us and all our luggage to the Tonzon Office (a converted house) in the capital city, Colombo, which is 25 km away. We are assailed by two things immediately: the heat and the noise. The temperatures in Sri Lanka remain steady in the 30’s centigrade and never seems to cool down even in the evenings. At those times when we had a tropical downpour, it just made the atmosphere very humid. The noise was something else. The traffic was like the M25 motorway on a busy morning, but everyone uses their horns non-stop and everyone overtakes everyone else regardless of what’s coming the other way! This took us some time to adjust to, although at least there was one thing left from Britain’s occupation of the country when it was known as “Ceylon” – they still drive on the left!
Arriving safely at the house in Colombo, we go for a walk to stretch our legs. Most shops are shut as it is a religious holiday today, but it is still interesting to walk around and get our bearings. It is a typical city – large, sprawling, polluted, noisy, hot and dirty and reminds me of Deli and other far eastern places I have visited. The roads are pretty poor and the pavements almost non-existent with little or no street lamps at night.
We decide to eat in a Chinese Restaurant which is open and have a nice light meal. Prices we soon realise are very cheap by our standards – the bill for the six of us is less than £15.00! We found that wherever we went, normally we could have a two course meal with beer or fruit juice or tea/coffee for under £3.00 each. We are all tired and as we have a long six hour journey to the South of the Island the next day, we retire to bed fairly early, Ajith and Husha returning to their own home. We make do in the office using sleeping mats. Conk and I have brought our portable mosquito nets which Ben and Masjolie don’t think are necessary, but they are bitten during the hot night, so we feel vindicated! We are all on Malaria tablets as Sri Lanka is in the Malarial belt.
Tuesday, 18th October 2005
Conk and I rise early due to the sticky conditions and have a shower. It’s my Birthday, and Jenny has hidden a card in my luggage whilst Conk and Masjolie and Ben also have cards for me. We are all feeling a lot better for a few hours sleep. Conk brings back some very hot and spicy fresh rolls from the Railway Station for breakfast, whilst the live-in “house” boys who look after the house for Ton make us nice Ceylon tea.
There is a coconut tree in the small garden, so one of the boys climbs it to cut down a bunch of green coconuts so we can all try fresh coconut juice direct from the kernel using a straw – very tasty!
Ajith arrives with a newish 9-seater Toyota Hiace Bus and our driver Perra who will be with us for the whole tour. Perra doesn’t speak English, is very shy but is very nice and a good driver. The World Wide Smiles Mission pays 60,000 rupees (£420) for the hire of the bus and Perra for the two weeks – pretty good value we thought.
All loaded up, we take our leave of Colombo, and after an hour we are clear of the city and heading South in the countryside. En-route, we stop to say hello to the Dutch Manager who runs the Sri Lanka factory of the firm that Ben, our Dutch Ringmaster, works for in Holland near his home village of Ulft. We are taken on a quick tour of the factory where we see drawings made by and with Ben’s name on!
We make good time, and Ajith decides that we have time to detour through one of the National Parks – Uda Walawe, on the way south, where we might see some elephants and other wild life. We agree and for 1500 rupees each (paid from our personal finances – about £10 each), we get an open-top landrover complete with Ranger and driver.
We spend an excellent two hours driving around parts of the huge Park and count over 70 elephants, some of who are blocking the road, so we switch off the engine and enjoy watching them and taking photographs. We also see loads of water buffalo, a white eagle, a fox, dozens of peacocks and I was lucky enough to catch sight of two black panthers slinking off into the jungle. There were also hundreds of colourful birds – it was simply wonderful to see all this wildlife all living wild and free. Sri Lanka has in the region of 10 – 12,000 elephants living in the wild and it was a great thrill for us all to see them in their natural habitat – and a super Birthday present for me as the rest of the World Wide Smiles Mission team have clubbed in to buy my ticket as a present!
We arrive at the Tissa Inn Hotel in Tissamaharama at about 6.30pm, a basic hotel, but cheap at £7.00 per en-suite room (food extra)! A nice meal and entertainment for the staff by Bluey & Conk before we all retire to our beds: we have our first shows in the morning to look forward to.
Wednesday, 19th October 2005
We get changed and made-up at the hotel as we are staying here for the next three nights. Much amusement when we first appear in our motley and slap! Clowns are unheard of here!
We travel about an hour to the St Mary’s College in Hambantota, in a tsunami-hit area. Devastation everywhere you look. We performed outside to about 400 children using the Bus as a backdrop. As the ground is just clay and mud, the children stand for the whole hour and a half show. Conk gets very dirty so we make a note to buy some matting to carry with us for future shows. The boys and girls love the show.
They are all attired the same: Ajith explains that all school children in Sri Lanka wear the same uniform which is supplied by the Government (three uniforms each per year). The boys wear blue shorts with white shirts whilst the girls are in all-white dresses and white blouses, some wear shoes or sandals but quite a few are bare foot. It looks very smart against their dark skin, although they must have difficulty in keeping them clean in the conditions we saw. All washing is done by hand, sometimes in shared open wells, sometimes in muddy rivers etc – most of their homes don’t have electricity or running water. Most seemed to have well water.
There was a Headmasters’ Meeting from all the local schools going on as we performed, and all the Headmasters tried to get Ajith to add their schools to our itinerary, which of course was impossible.
We did do an extra show that day at the Samodagama School – a new building built by the “Friends of Holland” to replace one destroyed by the Tsunami. It was in the traditional Sri Lanka style: all classrooms are “open” to the elements with just a thatched roof to keep out the sun and rain and “open” walls all round. It was good to perform inside out of the relentless sun to about 300 children who thoroughly entered into the spirit of the show and there were huge white smiles everywhere.
Afterwards, still in motley, we drove around some of the devastation caused by the seven huge waves that hit the island and took photographs. The fifth wave apparently was the largest and most ferocious, 50 foot high and travelling at an estimated 200 mph. It had flattened everything in it’s path, although amazingly, some of the younger more supple trees and palms survived. Other huge trees were just ripped out of the ground. Some houses were razed to the footings or ground floor, whilst others looked like a monster had taken a huge bite out of the side of the building, leaving a scarred shell behind. Out in an estuary, we saw many people out in the mud, digging, still looking for bodies and for lost valuables. We saw a USA Red Cross Unit at this place.
We could not fail to be troubled by these sights of utter destruction, knowing that whole families and villages had been wiped out within minutes. It was a very sombre and reflective team who returned to the hotel that afternoon, each one of us deeply moved, but determined to fulfil our mission to put a smile back on the faces of all the children who had suffered such a momentous tragedy in their lives.
We had planned a show at a nearby Orphanage in the afternoon, but sadly it could not take place because they could not obtain permission from the authorities for us to do it. Ajith finds out later that last year, a foreign “entertainer/visitor” had interfered with one of the children and as a result, the Government has banned all foreign entertainers visiting orphanages. This upsets us but there is nothing we can do to change it, so we clean up and go swimming at a nearby hotel’s pool, for a small charge. It was either that, or use the nearby lake (as the locals do) but we don’t fancy taking a chance in meeting one of the local crocodiles……
In the evening, we decided to try some local “fast food”, so Ajith takes us to a “Hopper” café. These specialise in hoppers, a type of savoury pancake “shell” made with rice flour and cooked in a specially shaped hopper pan. They fill the resultant “shell” with fried eggs and there were also dips of spicy hot pickles and sauces on the table to dip into. We all liked them, although I’m not sure that my stomach agreed! On the whole, we found most meals we were served were very hot and spicy, reflecting no doubt the ancient relationship with India and Pakistan, from whence the Sri Lankan descendants originated.
We finished the evening by buying some refreshments and sitting in the Bus by the side of the Lake whilst a spectacular storm with sheet and forked lightening and a monsoon rain storm passed over.
Thursday, 20th October 2005
We have another early start – after a hasty breakfast of toast, jam and cold fried egg and bananas (not necessarily in that order) we get changed and made-up. Both Conk and I reduce our make-up in view of the heat and sweat. We have two schools today, both in nearby Tissmaharamaya. The first is Gemunopura School where we perform in a large classroom. We note that the children are well disciplined. Because of lack of room and facilities, it is not unusual seeing three or four classes all using the one room at the same time, so I guess the teachers really have to insist on quiet and discipline so as not to disturb the other classes – we were very impressed!
All the schools we visited had very little equipment – old cracked blackboards on the wall, old desks if any, old and decrepit seats. There were no computers, games / sports facilities etc., apart from rough clay cricket patches.
The show, as always, is very well received. The second school we visit, the Ellagala School, appears to be even poorer than the others we have visited so far. Both shows are watched with joy and laughter by over 400 children at each. We are finding that our shows are going down very well with both the children and the teachers with little adjustment having to be made to our normal acts.
Friday, 21st October 2005
We have only one school to do today as the second school has failed to confirm. The Janadaipaya School is the nearest one to our Hotel, so Conk, Masjolie and myself decide to use the hotel’s Tuk Tuk (3-wheeled scooter taxi) to arrive at the school, much to the amusement of everyone as we tuk-tuk’d our way along the main road and into the school, followed by our bus. And what a sight to behold as we turned the corner: there were the whole 3,000 children of the school packed around an outside concrete stage waiting for us. It’s the biggest audience any of us has ever played to – what a thrill! Luckily, the school even has a basic amplifier, outside speaker and hand mic set up, as our own small portable PA wouldn’t cope with this size of audience. The huge audience goes mad when we Tuk Tuk into view. We again use the Bus as our “backstage” to the rear of the staging. We had made friends with a Swedish family of four who were staying at our hotel, and we have invited them to this performance. Our Hotel Manager/owner also attends to see the show. It is a resounding success and a real experience to perform to such a huge audience. We bring the two Swedish children up on stage with us together with six other local school children for our Band Entree and they thoroughly enjoy themselves. One of the school girls gave a lovely speech of thanks in English afterwards – beautifully enunciated – sounded just like “BBC Overseas Radio” – she must have spent hours rehearsing it! I made her a heart within a heart balloon as a thank you from us. Many photos were taken and the Swedish family had their photos taken with us all before they departed on their long journey home.
As the second school show has failed to materialise, Ajith suggests he can get us a Ranger Friend who will take us to the Ruhunu National Park in his friend’s jeep, to which we readily agree. We travel for about an hour to the park, where we tour around until dusk – about four and a half hours altogether. My back is killing me because we cannot stand up in this jeep. But it was worth it to see some more wild life. We see more elephants, crocodiles, iguana lizards, buffalo and snakes (but no cobra, which Sri Lanka has) and loads more birds. We are just leaving the park after Conk has finished hand feeding a baby buffalo (which looks like a big red deer) with our waste banana skins when we spot an old bull elephant in the bushes – a “Tusker” as he has his tusks. We stop to take photos as they are rare to see – there are only 12 in this national park and we are very lucky to see him at close range – they are very solitary creatures and only seek out one of the family groups when a female comes into season.
After the hour’s drive back to Tissamaharama, we are just driving through the village when we are forced to stop because we have a puncture. Conk helps the Ranger to change wheels before we return to the hotel, exhausted but happy to have seen such an abundance of wildlife.
Saturday 22nd October 2005
We book out of the Tissa Inn Hotel this morning. Very friendly staff and a happy atmosphere – we all have our photograph taken together, although we will be returning again for one night’s stay in three days time. We leave Hambantoto for the four and a half hour drive North East to Aragum Bay near Pottuvil. Here we stayed at a typical beach “hotel”, the Galaxy, where the eating and social area is just an open outside concrete area over which is built a thatched roof and furnished with tables and chairs . We each had a rough wooden chalet which consisted of one room with basic furniture and a bed (complete with hanging mozzie net) and a second room “outside” toilet and shower room, which was surrounded by a wall for privacy, but open to the sky.
The owners are an Australian (Wayne) and his Sri Lankan/British wife Sri. They had bought into the original hotel at the beginning of 2004 and had just finished renovating it when it was smashed to pieces by the Tsunami. They were both caught in the wave. Sri was pregnant at the time. Wayne was severely injured and was airlifted out, but both survived and today Sri has a bubbly little baby boy about four months old – a real miracle Tsunami baby. The hotel has just finished being rebuilt from scratch and re-opened on the 14th October, so we are only it’s second visitors.
It has a lovely location right on the beach, and we lost no time in putting on our 1920’s clown swimming costumes, painted on latex clown noses and down to the pounding surf for a frolic in the lovely warm waters. This is a heavy surf beach and the undercurrent was extremely strong, so we soon exhausted ourselves as well as gathering up tons of sand in our cossies! But it gave the onlookers a few laughs!
After showering and changing, we lazed away the evening whilst waiting for our Dinner. We soon found that the Chef, a Sri Lankan, was an excellent cook. But everything, even toasted sandwiches, took at least 2 hours to prepare, something we noted for our future breakfasts as we would be having early starts again from Monday onwards. However, as it was the weekend, we had no school shows to do and looked forward to a decent relaxing break over the weekend. A chance to do some washing and clean up our gear. We did try to arrange additional orphanage visits at this time but failed due to the aforementioned ban.
Sunday 23rd October, 2005
Relaxed today, but did take a walk along the seashore early, watched the fisherman emptying their fishing boats (all of which appeared to be new and sponsored by various countries or private companies). We saw two boats “presented by the British High Commission”. It was the only thing “British” that we saw during the entire trip. We were approached several time by young boys, orphans who wanted help and money. We explained who we were and what we were doing and suggested they see the relevant authorities for the help that they require. Went swimming further along the bay in quieter waters in the afternoon. Excellent R & R!
Monday, 24th October 2005
It’s a busy schedule today – up at 6.30 am, breakfast at 7.30 am (and Chef is on time, miracle of miracles!). We leave fully made-up at 8.30 a.m. for the first of three shows we are performing today. We travel for an hour further north to Thambiluvil in a Tamil populated area and perform at the Akkaraipattu Thirukkovil School for 500 odd children, in the open. It is extremely hot and we all suffer a bit, but Conk really feels the heat and needs a lot of bottled water to recover.
Because of the ongoing Tamil Tigers terrorism campaign, we have been accompanied today by a specially trained “Special Forces” armed Police Unit in their jeep. They are specially trained for jungle fighting and anti-terrorism. There was an indiscriminate grenade attack nearby just two days before our arrival. Foreigners are a special target, especially valuable as hostages. The show is enjoyed by all, including the armed police!
We are asked to do a further show at a nearby nursery/kindergarten, but unfortunately we don’t have time as we need to be at the Thambiluvil Sawaswathy Vidyalayam School ten minutes drive away. Schools in Sri Lanka close at 2.00 p.m., so we need to be at the school, set up and do the performance before school finishes. This show is in a hall and it is much better out of the direct sun, again the show being very well received – huge smiles and laughs all the way through by the 500 odd children.
Afterwards, the Principal asks us to his office and begs us for help for basic equipment for his school. They have no paper, pens, pencils: only old cracked blackboards and he dearly would love a second-hand computer. He will not be the first Headmaster to beg for help during the tour. It seems to us very sad that whilst millions of Pounds was collected by the people of Britain (and other European countries) after the Tsunami, it appears that it just sits in banks whilst the politicians argue over what grand project or other they will or won’t approve. Meanwhile, we encounter people still living in emergency tents or temporary tin or wood huts and their schools cry out for basic equipment……
Our Special Forces bodyguard invite us back to their Officer’s Mess for lunch. Which of course, is, chicken, vegetable or fish curry with rice. Very nice too, but I don’t eat much as I normally don’t bother with lunch. One giggle is that they traditionally eat with their right fingers, but Masjolie, Ben and I asked for a fork or spoon. It was panic stations as it took a long search to find any! Normally, I would have been happy to use my fingers, but we still had another show to do and it’s difficult enough eating with your make-up on with normal utensils – I could see me spreading food all over my chin using my fingers….. They serve us with glasses of hot, yellow well water (it’s been boiled to kill the bugs) but I can’t face drinking it and wait till we get back in our bus to have some bottled water! However, we are very grateful to them for their kind hospitality and for their protection in this dangerous area. Before we leave, they show us photos of some of their colleagues killed whilst on duty in recent months.
We take our leave and drive the hour back to our hotel. Here we have an hour’s break, before we take off again, travelling just 10 minutes down the road to give an hour’s performance for the AMI (Aid Medicinal International) who run a Kid’s Club. The premises, built right on the beach, resembles a round Bandstand with a small hut at one side which houses various games that have been donated for the children to play with. We use this as our “backstage” and do a shortened one hour show for about 30 children and adults. We needed to finish by 6.00 pm as it is Ramadan and they are all Muslims in this area. The show goes well although we are all starting to feel drained by the heat.
We return satisfied with our efforts and celebrate a long hot day by cleaning up and showering and then having a special fresh seafood Dinner: fresh lobsters, crab claws and King Prawns with salad and a strong garlic and lemon sauce. Full marks to the Chef – absolutely superb. Conk, Ben and Masjolie haven’t eaten lobster before, so it is a new experience for them. We feel like Kings and Queens!!
The local sandflies also like a meal, and we are all getting eaten alive (one of the drawbacks of having an open outside living area on the beach!), but it’s share and share alike -so it’s on with another dose of mosquito spray and a dive under the mosquito nets for sanctuary for the night!
Tuesday 25th October 2005
We are due to travel back down south today. But first AMI arrive at 8.45 a.m. Can we do an extra show at the local school at 9.00 a.m.?! We settle on 9.45 a.m. and all rush off to get the motley and slap on. By the time we arrive at the Akkaripathu Pottuwill Tamil Mixed School and set up and wait for the teachers to organise the 600 plus children, the show actually starts at 10.10 a.m. We get a special request from AMI to do the “Whipcracker” entree which we hadn’t included in the programme today, so Ben is despatched to get the props from the Bus and we add it to the programme whilst the show is on. Kids ecstatic. Big smiles all round. We are pleased to have made the effort to add in this show at the last moment. We return to the Galaxy Hotel, clean and pack up, have a toasted sandwich for lunch, before saying goodbye to our hosts Wayne and Sri and start the long journey back down south where, after 4 ½ hours, we arrive at our original Tissa Inn Hotel in Hambantota, where we stay just the one night.
On our journey south, we stop to look at a Sikh Temple. I have a very uncomfortable night with a bad stomach and by 6.00 a.m. it is evident to me that I have contracted the dreaded “Deli Belly”, with vomiting and diarrhoea. I take Imodium from my first aid kit but I am not looking forward to the forthcoming two shows and I give breakfast a miss.
Wednesday 26th October 2005
We have two very important shows today as the Director of Education is travelling with us to witness both shows. I am feeling very bad with stomach cramps and feeling queasy all the time. When we reach the Hungama National School, the planned outside show for 3000 children has to be moved inside as a torrential tropical downpour starts. Even though it stops in time for the show, the outside is a quagmire of clay and mud. Unfortunately, the hall can only hold about 1000 children, but we estimate they squash 1500 in to the hall. It was extremely hot and the humidity is very high because of the rain. I had to run for the toilet before we started the show, but managed to get through the show without throwing up or having to run for the loo again, and the cramps started to ease off – the Imodium is taking effect, much to my relief. It was extremely noisy, and we didn’t have a PA. We found generally that we had to replace the batteries in our PA and CD player every day as they just didn’t last in the heat. We ended up doing a lot of mime! We became concerned during the second half of our 1 ½ hour show as some of the smaller children up against the front of the stage were getting crushed by the older children pushing at the back of the hall. As the teachers didn’t seem to be able to control the situation or realise that there might be a problem developing, we took the decision on stage to cut the last 10 minutes, in the interests of the children’s safety, but a very successful show, none the less and the Director of Education, who had sat with the Principal of the school on chairs on one side of the stage was very impressed.
We then continued straight to the Hatgala Nilwala College in Hungama, where another huge gathering of over 1000 children are waiting for us. I am still poorly, but the show goes well thanks to the great support and encouragement from Conk, Masjolie and Ben.
Afterwards, the Director of Education thanks us ‘for bringing smiles from across the world’ and hopes we can come again and for a longer period of time.
We clean up and change at the school, re-pack our bus before heading on the coast road north west. We stop at the Green Garden Hotel, a short walk from the beach, but I am so ill I go straight to bed after a shower and sleep for twelve straight hours whilst the others swim and have chicken noodles for Dinner!
Thursday, 27th October 2005
I don’t hear Conk come in at all and wake up the following morning feeling a lot better, but still with a tender tum, but I am well enough to join the others for a pre-breakfast swim in the lovely bay. The water seems colder this side of the island, and we have to watch where we tread in the water as there is still a lot of debris on the seabed from the Tsunami. I have scrambled egg and toast for breakfast and feel a little better, but get a bit squiffy (queasy) in the bus on our way North. We have our last two booked shows today. We drive to the Somowythi Primary School at Kagglia where we perform in a school hall to about 450 children who thoroughly enjoy the show.
Then we travel only 5 minutes away to our first Orphanage! Hooray! Although we have not been successful in getting permission to perform at any other orphanages, this one is a new orphanage built immediately after the Tsunami specifically for Tsunami children made orphans by the tragedy. It was funded, built and staffed by the Dutch: “The House of Hope” is a lovely purpose-built home, beautifully furnished with every home comfort, and the Dutch Matron is thrilled to have us there. It currently only houses 29 children, there being another 120 due, but still being processed by the authorities (this being 10 months after Tsunami!!!).
We find out that 12 of the children were at the school where we performed this morning, so we insert three new items and do a shortened one hour show, after which Bluey and Conk made balloon animals for all the children for another hour. These children have been severely traumatised. They have lost all their family and their homes and their pets. They fear water, and the staff have started playing games with them in paddling pools to try and overcome this fear. We soon have them all smiling and laughing, and we have no difficulty in getting volunteers up for our various acts. Even a couple of the deeply traumatised kids ended up playing with Conk and Bluey with spinning plates and juggling scarfs. At the end, when we finish with our bubbles routine, they all act as normal kids, all up and chasing the bubbles with glee and much laughter! We are overcome to see these homeless toddlers and children who have lost everything they know – their Mothers, Fathers, brothers and sisters, their homes and friends and neighbours. It really brings home to us just how much they have suffered in their short little lives. We are both humbled and uplifted that we had the opportunity to bring some smiles to them, even if for a short while…. It really is a House of Hope!
We clean up and travel a further two hours north along the coast, seeing around every corner more devastation. Every part of the coast has been affected – sometimes only by 20-30 metres, but mostly up to 2,000 metres. We stop to film a train wreckage. It was a large train with many carriages, yet it was bodily lifted by the wave and smashed down 800 metres away inland from the original line. Over 1,000 people lost their lives on this one train alone, the largest train fatality Sri Lanka has ever known. Conk places a British Legion cross on one of the carriages, which have been left as a permanent memorial (later we cross a bridge and see the original train line washed down the gorge and in the river). We are surrounded by women, young and old, carrying babies, crying out for help. They are mostly still living in temporary tents and hastily erected wooden shacks. We feel helpless because we cannot help them – we cannot build bridges or rebuild their homes and we have insufficient budget to give them money – there are so many begging for help wherever we stop.
Wake up Sri Lanka Government – your people are crying!!! Again it appears to us that there is little evidence of quality housing being rebuilt – just many wooden shacks, tin huts and the inevitable ragged tents.
We cannot find a suitable hotel at Galle, so travel on to Hikkaduma and book in to the Nippon Villa. The Villa is on the seafront and was hit by the Tsunami – but it basically survived and has been refurbished and repaired where required, but we all feel that our rooms are still very damp and a little smelly. It is too late for a swim (there is no twilight here in the Southern hemisphere – once it is dusk, it becomes pitch black). We go across the road and find a reasonable Sri Lanka restaurant (our hotel does not do food). The food is good so we order breakfast for the following morning there as well.
Friday 28th October 2005
We pack again and travel the last 3 ½ hours back to noisy, smelly, crowded Colombo and return to the Tonzon Office/house where we take a welcome shower and change. Then we have time to do some souvenir shopping before re-packing everything for our long flight home tomorrow. A last meal together at a Indian restaurant with Sri Lankan musicians playing bongo drums and a one hand organ (the other hand used to pump the bellows).
A time to reflect and reminisce on the last two weeks tour. We had travelled over 1500 km to the S, SE and SW of Sri Lanka and performed for just over 8,000 children affected by the Tsunami in hot, sticky conditions – but we all agreed that it had been worth every sweaty minute. The people had been wonderful: polite, courteous, gentle and charming, always with huge bright white smiles; and the children – at once so shy and yet so responsive to our smiles and humour.
We gave them our hearts, and they gave us theirs. And we left behind many, many smiles. Over 8,000 in fact. Mission accomplished – until, perhaps, next time ……
Members of World Wide Smiles would like to place on record their deepest thanks to all those whose generosity and help made this tour possible: the many sponsors, the Centrum Festival Committee in Ulft, Holland, and to all those clowns who freely gave their time and performances in Ulft to raise money for this mission.
Please see the photos on our Sri Lanka 2005 Photos page.